Tales of the Cocktail is a chance to meet up with other people from the spirits business and drink to excess with them. This year I skipped the usual late night parties (okay, I skipped them for one night) and I got up early. To my great surprise I found a whole host of other industry professionals had done the same thing. Some of them had even planned this ahead of time and prepared seminars on a nearly endless list of topics. I decided to investigate and I was given the chance to sit in on a seminar entitled, “Make It Your Own” sponsored by Everclear.

Ted Kilgore leads Make It Your Own, photo by Tim Miner

Ted Kilgore leads Make It Your Own, photo by Tim Miner

Ted Kilgore, Everclear’s head mixologist, lead a casual Q&A style seminar during which he explained that the “Jungle Juice” you probably ladled out of a trash can during college was not exactly what the creators of Everclear had in mind. Instead, Kilgore walked his audience through the steps needed to make bitters and liqueurs easy enough for and aimed at the home mixologist. A tasting table lining one wall of the room was topped with a slew of examples of liqueurs that could be made with some overproof neutral spirit, fruits, vegetables, spices and a little patience. Of these liqueurs, it was the jalapeño-watermelon and the blackberry-sage that were showcased in cocktails at the bar in the back of the room. The jalapeño-watermelon liqueur was joined by reposado tequila and lime juice to make a summery, yet spicy Margarita variation called the Border Crossing while the blackberry-sage liqueur along with some lemon and honey found their way into a Bee’s Knees/Bramble riff called the Bee Sage.

Attendees were encouraged to get up to try the liqueurs and cocktails during the seminar giving the whole thing the feel of a casual afternoon gathering in a friend’s living room. This played well with the idea that these infusions are a great way for the home mixologist to show off his own twist on a classic or break new ground in flavor combinations. Either way I’m just happy to see Everclear put to better use than trashcan punch.

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Border Crossing (Ted Kilgore)

Add all ingredients to mixing tin, then add ice and shake. Strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Garnish with a lime wedge or a jalapeño slice and optional salted rim.

Jalapeño-Watermelon Infusion (Ted Kilgore)

  • 6 oz/177 mL Everclear
  • 7 oz/207 mL Water
  • 11 to 13 oz (about 375 mL) Simple Syrup (1:1)
  • 1 Cup/237 g Ripe Watermelon, chopped
  • ½ Medium Jalapeño, sliced

Add jalapeño to Everclear and let steep 10 to 15 minutes or to preferred heat. Strain off and add watermelon. Steep for 48 hours and then strain in a fine strainer.Press down with spoon or muddler to extract juices. At this point you should have 11 to 13 oz. of watermelon and Everclear. Add an equal amount of simple syrup by volume and bottle the mixture.

This should keep for 3 to 4 weeks if refrigerated.